While previous years have been marked by celebrations and parades, Wednesday’s Remembrance Day comes exactly six months after Russia’s invasion began.
President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the day with an emotional speech that spoke of the Russian invasion as a new Independence Day — a day when Ukraine must fight for its independence rather than vote at the ballot box.
“A new nation rose at 4 a.m. on February 24, not born, but reborn. A nation that didn’t cry, didn’t scream, didn’t fear. Didn’t run. Didn’t run. Didn’t give up. Didn’t ‘forget,'” Zelensky said Wednesday.
He added: “Each new day is a new reason not to give up. Because after so much has passed, we have no right not to reach the end. What is the end of the war for us? We say: peace. Now we say: victory.”
On Wednesday, those fears were borne out. Yuri Zak, an adviser to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov, told CNN that Russia had launched “missile attacks across the Ukrainian border.”
“In other major cities of Ukraine, even in cities far from the battlefield, there have been explosions, missile attacks,” Zach said, adding that there were at least eight air raid sirens in Kyiv on Wednesday.
Zelensky said later on Wednesday that at least 22 people were killed and 50 injured in the strike at Chaplin train station in eastern Dnipropetrovsk region. An 11-year-old boy was among those killed in the strike.
“Chaplain is our pain today. At this time, 22 people have died, five of them were burned in a car. A teenager died, she was 11 years old, a Russian rocket destroyed her house,” Zelensky added.
‘Not so easily frightened’
Instead of a parade, broken-down and captured Russian military vehicles, including tanks, were placed on Khreshchatyk, Kyiv’s main street, a testament to Moscow’s failure to capture the capital in the early weeks of the war.
On the eve of Independence Day, a crowd was seen in Khreshchatyk, surveying the scene. Some children crawled over the rusted metal carcass of the tank, while others posed for pictures by the mangled vehicles.
Lyubov, who asked not to give his last name, said he came to show his 8-year-old son, Ilya, a “scrap metal parade.”
As Illya boarded a Russian combat vehicle, Lyubov described the parade as “symbolic,” adding, “A lot of people in Kyiv (have forgotten) about the war, so I think it’s a good reminder.”
Her husband, who was fighting on the front lines, asked her to move to a summer home 50 kilometers (31 mi) away from the capital. But she refused to go.
“Even if there were massive missile attacks in Kyiv (Wednesday), we will not leave,” he said, adding that he has an emergency bag at home, with enough clothes and overalls “in case of radiation contamination … missiles. We are not so easily scared by them anymore.”
“I don’t feel (Independence Day) festive, rather sad,” he added. “Because I understand what’s going on, my husband and brother are on the front lines.”
Holding a Ukrainian flag, another CNN viewer also has relatives fighting against Russia.
“My father is on the front line, a lot of my relatives are on the front line … So tomorrow is not a celebration, but to honor and feel freedom, because this time will be different than the previous 30 years. Daria, 35, declined to give her last name.
U.S. President Joe Biden marked Ukraine’s Independence Day on Wednesday, with a new $2.98 billion investment in Ukraine to emphasize U.S. commitment to security assistance.
“This will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, anti-unmanned aerial systems and radars to ensure that it can defend itself in the long term,” Biden said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Today is not just a celebration of the past, but a celebration of Ukraine as a sovereign and free nation that proudly stands — and promises to remain,” Biden said, adding, “The United States looks forward to continuing to celebrate Ukraine as a democratic, free, sovereign and prosperous state for decades to come.”
The VAMPIRE counter-unmanned aerial system — or counter-drone system — in the defense assistance package “uses mainly small missiles to fire missiles from the air,” Dr. Colin Call, the Defense Department’s undersecretary for policy, told reporters later. On Wednesday.
World leaders joined Biden on Wednesday in pledging continued support for Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Johnson met Zelensky during his visit. He announced a $66 million aid package for Ukraine, telling the country that it “can and will win” its war against Russia.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Joao Gómez Cravinho is among the foreign leaders in Kiev.
In Brussels, a giant Ukrainian flag was hoisted on the Grand-Place during an event attended by European Commission President Ursula van der Leyen.
‘It Tears Me Apart’
Several people who spoke to CNN in Kyiv’s Khreshchatyk on Tuesday shared concerns about a possible Russian attack on Wednesday.
After six months of conflict that has crippled Ukraine’s economy and disrupted every aspect of daily life, the exhaustion is palpable.
Oleksii, 29, explained that he was worried about the launch of missiles in the capital, saying, “I don’t feel festive about tomorrow, I’m not in a festive mood.”
“My hatred of Russians has become so great that it is tearing me apart,” said Anna, 68, who declined to give her last name for security reasons.
The clinic where she works has asked her to work remotely for the next few days. “I’ve worked (throughout) the war… sometimes coming home under shelling,” he said.
He described Russian President Vladimir Putin as unpredictable and “like a monkey with a grenade”.
“He says one thing, does something different, and nobody can guess what’s really on his mind,” he said.
CNN’s Kyle Blaine, Karen Smith, Nicholas Pearce and Radina Kikova contributed to this report.